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Refusing the Eucharist

BY JEREMY WINDHAM
 

Stephen F. Austin State University, '15
2015 Adroit Prize for Poetry: Editors List

 

Autumn’s a slackened stroll past Peeler Switch,
   a lowly railroad crossing down a road

           burdened by the stench of burning trash.

   Population 5-Oh-9, lyrics to an East Texas cantata
this town always leaves unscored until spring

           when flowering dogwoods kindle reason

to thank again, kneel again, most of all, sing.
   I learned these skinny trees bore the weight

           of a dying prophet as he parted his lips at last,

   I learned they were once as strong as oaks
until sorrow thinned their spectral branches

           so they might never fasten another cross.
 
Leave it to my grandfather to gladly interpret
   The Crucifixion as nature myth, a tree’s lament.

           Mourning, a transformative malediction.

   One morning I heard my grandfather sing,
where there’s smoke, there’s a fire. He added,

           where there’s fire, there’s a flame—a half

cadence from his tobacco-stained guitar which now
   sits untouched out of reverence or fear of resolution.

           What happens next? The question I asked him

   after his November funeral, after I refused Jesus
for the first time during communion in His own home

           the way house cats refuse an outstretched hand,

after I found myself standing alone in a clearing
   near a trail behind the property, fevered with grief.

 

Thanatopsis

BY JEREMY WINDHAM
 

Stephen F. Austin State University, '15
2015 Adroit Prize for Poetry: Editors List

 

It happened like this: a rallentando of cumulous,
a rustle of wings concealed in a thicket of bright
yaupon holly before an unexpected shower.

My grandmother told me life is a marvelous forfeit,
a bargain struck even by the smallest of creatures.
Crippling finality over one lukewarm cup of coffee.

Wind after rain, a sweeping chill ushered forth a fawn
from the edge of our forest. Why did she reveal herself
in gray November; why did she nuzzle what will outlive
her for years to come, a low-hanging honey mesquite?

Once I was kneeling at vigil mass, now I am emptying
the birdfeeder of seed and kernel. O, now I am locking
the back door, flipping through Ovid—Procne, a bird.
Adonis, a flower. Niobe, a mountain. What’s left for us?

Tonight, I wonder if each bright pair of eyes has already
relinquished its glint to the ground, every blink and glare.
And my grandmother, I wonder if she laid down her life

before or after she watched her grandchildren lift
their grandfather’s casket. So it happened like this:
I woke on the front porch and was no longer immortal.

 

 

Recently featured in Best New Poets 2014 and recipient of a Best of the Net nomination, Jeremy Windham holds a BFA in creative writing and violin performance. He currently lives and writes on Galveston Island, and his poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The Portland Review, Ruminate, The Lake, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Cider Press Review, Gravel, Heron Tree, Rainy Day Magazine, Southern Humanities Review, and Spillway, among other literary journals.